Election Coverage / Opinion / Politics

Candidates, Issues, Debates, and the Media in the 2020 Election


You’d be forgiven if you watched the 20 Democrat candidates in their televised debates and concluded they were auditioning for the role of Santa Claus.  After all, Santa delivers most of the goodies on people’s wish lists without charge to those receiving them.  Alternatively, you might have concluded there must be a tree in the backyard of The White House that the winning candidate could shake down for money at any time for their high-priced proposals.  Either way, the candidates’ comments were far removed from practicality.

Show Me the Money

Given this, one would expect the media to fulfill its role as watchdog and fact checker to hold the candidates to account for free college, the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, canceling student debt, and the like.  But this is not happening, as precious little questioning and follow ups from both the CNN and NBC panelists focused on pinning the candidates down for how their pet projects would be paid.  It’s as if all on stage had never heard Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman’s famous quote, “The government doesn’t have any money.  The only power it has is to take from some and give to others.” 

Take Medicare for All.  Numerous experts have estimated its cost, including former Medicare Board of Trustees member Charles Blahous.  He estimates the cost to the federal budget at $32.6 trillion.  The Urban Institute estimated $32 trillion over 10 years as well.  Medicare for All would double the size of federal government spending.  Even a doubling of corporate and individual income taxes would fail to cover its costs.   

Purity or Pragmatism?

The Democrats must come to terms with their true goal for 2020 before the primary and caucus season gets under way.  Do they want to win the presidency or win the argument?  The debate is not trivial, as it’s unlikely they can have both.  Nationally syndicated columnist Victor Davis Hanson wrote in July that, “It may be that the Democratic Party would rather lose in a fashion it considers noble than win insincerely.”

Being true to liberal ideology (i.e. being “pure” in beliefs) without compromise is the current view of activists and progressives in the party and a majority of the 20-plus presidential candidates.  Several progressives on the debate stage accused their more moderate colleagues of using “Republican talking points” whenever they strayed from the liberal line.  This smaller group of moderate pragmatists does occasionally note that many of the far-left proposals are too expensive and could never pass both houses of Congress. 

The pragmatists want to win and know that the white working-class voters that deserted the Democrat party for President Trump in 2016 are key.  Border security is important to this voting bloc, and Joe Biden tried to make the point that it should continue to be a crime to cross the border illegally.  But the progressives were having none of it, as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Secretary Julian Castro wouldn’t let it go that Biden, as part of the Obama Administration, was a part of deporting more illegal aliens than the Trump Administration. 

America has seen this movie before.  The GOP wrestled with this dilemma in 1964 with Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater was viewed as too extreme by voters and many in the party Establishment, but the convention delegates nominated him anyway.  At the 1964 convention Goldwater exclaimed, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.  Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”  He went on to lose the election and 44 states to Democrat Lyndon Johnson.

Debt: A Four-letter word?

The four-letter word almost never appearing in questions asked by the media and rarely mentioned by the candidates on their own is “debt.”  America owes $22.6 trillion, which equates to $69,000 for every U.S. citizen (adults and children) and $183,000 per U.S. taxpayer.  Every dollar must be repaid to the individuals and governments (some foreign) who lent the funds, plus interest

It is precisely these interest payments that will handicap the next president, whether he or she likes it or wants to talk about it or not.  The Congressional Budget Office projects the U.S. will pay more in interest to service its debt than it will spend on Defense in just five years.  The budget deficit, the annual amount that spending exceeds tax revenue, will exceed $1 trillion every year in perpetuity starting in 2020. 

Add to interest payments the spending on just the four largest programs—Defense/Veterans, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and you are at 82 percent of the entire federal budget.  It is worth noting these four tend to be precisely the programs politicians say must not be touched.  Medicare is indeed an important program for America’s seniors, but few know it does not cover its costs with payroll taxes and the small premiums people pay.  Medicare will reach insolvency in 2026 according to its Trustees.  It would seem unfathomable to talk about drastically expanding a program that is already fiscally unsound, but the Democrats running for president see it differently.

On June 13th the Editorial Board of The Chicago Tribune wrote a lengthy op-ed criticizing the Democrat candidates for their spending proposals and lack of interest in budget deficits and debt.  The op-ed acknowledged that many candidates talk about repealing the Trump tax cuts, but the paper noted, “Raising tax rates to where they were when Donald Trump took office would merely slow the growth of the debt, not cover the cost of new programs.  Reducing the rate at which you are accumulating debt, alas, does not give you more money to spend.”

What the Media Missed

Besides failing to ask the tough fiscal questions, the media lets candidates get away with claims that have no merit.  The list is lengthy, but one that stands out from the last debate is Senator Corey Booker’s voter suppression claim.  Yes, it is fact that Hillary Clinton got fewer votes in 2016 than Barack Obama did in 2012 in many Rust Belt counties with large minority populations.  But the reason is far from an army of racists dressed in bed sheets that kept voters away from the polls.  The answer is simple.  Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate, and millions of Democrats in Midwestern states simply disliked her enough to stay home and sit the election out.  The question now is, will a similar number of Democrats do the same in 2020 if a progressive like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris is the Trump alternative? 

Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), a senior benefits organization with nearly 2 million members.

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Leta Bishop
3 years ago

The DEMS have nothing to offer but “pie in the sky” which can never be done. America would go completely broke trying to implement their “new green deal, health care for illegal immigrants, free college education and so on and so on. They treat conservatives like me like they think we are idiots and uninformed. I hope all conservatives, and some democrats who don’t like their far-out agenda, will get out and vote for Trump. We need to tell them once and for all that we do not want a socialist country. Somebody has to pay for all this free stuff and middle income families are already paying more than their share of taxes. Stand for America! We live here; it is ours!!!

Jack Thomas
3 years ago

The Democratic Party has only one primary objective, not unlike Barack Obama’s which he readily admitted: To “fundamentally transform America.” Obama succeeded to the detriment of most of the country (it still amazes me when I hear some fool praising Obama for all he did to make our nation great). Please! Give us a break! Today’s “progressive” socialist Democrats are salivating like Pavlov’s Dogs at the prospect of taking over where Obama left off. Pray that never happens! If they get the White House + the Senate majority and keep control of the House, the United States of America as we know it is dead in the water.

I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating —- God save us from the folly of ‘useful idiots.’

Big Al
3 years ago

The media is complicit along with politicians and elected representatives in the hatred that has spread through the social media and is leading to illegal acts at every degree.

Ed Curtis
3 years ago

I just received this and even though it is not on subject, per se, I think a chuckle during these times is a necessity

“Flash” Circuses and carnivals are facing a dire shortage of clowns! They are all in Washington D.C.!

Cheer up – we wil prevail!

Brenda Blunt
3 years ago

I did not watch the debate! I consider them a bunch of idiots who are only interested in the illegals and not the legal American citizen who works and contributes to the finances of the USA!

3 years ago
Reply to  Brenda Blunt

Well i know of one legal so call american and he sits in the white house, promised to show his taxes, made his money of the back of illegals, never served his country yet beleagers our military i will take any of the democratic candidates over him.

3 years ago

The entire group are total fools! A gathering of Dems’ best idiots??? What a mess of humanity!

Ed LaPinskas
3 years ago

Previous to Trump taking the Oval Office, the WH has been vacant for 24 years. Ya’ gotta admit that.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ed LaPinskas

Wow, very true!

3 years ago

The really intriguing question is what they have planned should they win and implement these monstrosities which then throws the country into a depression not seen in ninety yrs. My guess: that would be the pretext for total control; the loss of most rights and the elimination of individual assets. Pocahontas crossed the rubicon on wealth seizure earlier this yr. They will say and the media parrot, the lie that Trump forces them into extreme remedies.

David Campbell
3 years ago

I didn’t watch the debates and won’t watch any of them. First, I’m not sure I would even be able to. Second, I would learn pricisely nothing, except maybe that the left has gone even more insane than I thought. In other words, a 100% complete waste of time. I actually feel sorry for conservative commentators that have to watch this stuff to be able to intelligently comment on them. What I dread is that one of these idiots will get the nomination and then I’ll have to start listening to them no matter how much I try to avoid it because they will be part of the news cycle 24/7. The good news is, Trump’s reelection is as certain as the swirling morass of politics will allow for. What really scares me is 2024.

If you hate The United States of America, vote for Democrats.

3 years ago

In face of $22 trillion debt, the tax cuts for the rich (by Republicans) makes no sense whatsoever. Pay down debt…..and now POTUS is giving $14Billion to farmers cuz his tariffs are harming them.??? Why???

3 years ago

Who wants to watch a circus of clowns! They can’t get along with each other, interrupting each other, poking fingers, and no idea what the agenda really is supposed to be. What are the goals, the future plans for the country not your pockets. Cities are going down as judges let murders out on bail, money from hurricane and flood relief misspent. Gun control made biggest joke in the history of America, look at Chicago, strong gun laws, more shootings than evrr each weekend. Congress asking for more money donations to pass an agenda, why?!! You are paid, your job description is to make laws to follow the constitution and protect the people. After this passed weekend, Biden has no idea what happened, it was El Paso, Tx; Dayton, Ohio where shooting occurred. Not Houston or Michigan. Call this in touch with things outside the beltway. Wake up to the the reality of this country. Get your head and hands out of the the coffers of big business lining your pockets and stop coverups as in the last years of democratic ostrich administration with murder of the people serving the country as military and embassy employees. Lies to save their own life. Prison should hold at least 4 of them. That is just the beginning beginning.

3 years ago

Yes the current debt will plague the next President & it appears that Trump is going to increase the debt even more this term instead of starting to pay in down. Remember, most of this debt is owed to foreign countries & that is not good. Balance the budget & pay down our debt is the only answer.

3 years ago

Sure money grows on trees. Ask any socialist. All they do is blow smoke up your butt and tell you it’s sunshine. There isn’t one socialist that can tell the truth, all they know how to do is LIE! A quick glance at the low life bums in their “debate” on TV bears this out. Anyone stupid enough to want any one of them as President needs to be sent to Cuba or Russia to see what socialism really is. Wake up voters before it’s too late.

3 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Socialism is not way to go, but both parties need to bite the bullet & pay down debt. You do not even hear them whisper about Social Security in the future ??? They need to fix that now & should not be using these dollars in budget as that is tax dollars paid for by taxpayers (and not entitlement as some think)

3 years ago

FREE, FREE, FREE!!! Freedom isn’t free. It is paid for by the blood, lives and limbs of our Military and Veterans. Likewise, all these so-called “free” social programs are not free either. Someone has to pay the piper. And that will be us, the U.S. Taxpayer. My Dad had a saying: “ It only hurts when you are the one who is bleeding.” And these “free” programs will bleed us all dry. Keep that in mind when it comes time to vote in the next election.

3 years ago

Did not watch will not watch they are court jesters fools need to seek shock treatments they are so racist hateful people and are always calling for violence against Trump supporters so we all know they are the cause for the violence in America and it is strange ever time they want the eyes of America off them we have a shooting very strange not really they the democratics socialist communist muslums atheist are behind this just hope this guy Barr gets to it and starts arresting Prosecuting these vile Un- Americans

Sally Duncan
3 years ago

I honestly don’t understand how anyone can sipport any of the current Democratic candidates. There is no logical way any of their ideals can be good for our country. It is a sad state of affairs when every candidate out there has been caught in at least one lie & not brought to task by the media we are supposed to believe us neutral.

3 years ago

The media did not miss anything, they missed it because they wanted to, remember they have an agenda and only “miss” when it is not on their agenda.

Robert Hellam
3 years ago

Barry Goldwater was betrayed by what were then the Eastern Establishment Republicans and their liberal Midwestern allies. In office, we can be sure that he would have been much more moderate in terms of increasing the size of government than Johnson was; and, most likely, the Vietnam War would have ended with South Vietnam still in existence and a hope for reunification on the model of what we later saw in Germany.
Johnson bore the mantle of his deceased predecessor, and that probably made him a shoo-in anyway, but the landslide would perhaps have been less overwhelming if the Republicans had hung together (as Goldwater preached to the conservatives in 1960 who were considering leaving the party).
The “wisdom” of the betrayers of Goldwater, the man who should have been President, should not be a model for us today.

3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Hellam

Very true explanation!

Frank S.
3 years ago

I am so frustrated with all the politicians who refuse to address a balanced budget process and a national debt reduction strategy. We are literally stealing from future American generations. And we are greatly weakening–dare I say destroying–our country in the process, each year having to service the debt with a bigger and bigger share of the budget versus, oh, I don’t know…maybe investing in infrastructure or jobs training (and just wait till inflation eventually rises, as it will inevitably do). Instead we get these democratic clowns on stage promising to “give” people more stuff. And the MSM supports this crap! But the Republicans are not much better. They say the right things, but they refuse to address the many budgetary crises too. None of this is sustainable…we no longer care about what we can do for our country, but rather what our country can do to take care of us, because we are either too ignorant or too stupid to take care of ourselves! We just keep digging a deeper and deeper hole. I wonder what the “greatest generation” would think us today.

3 years ago
Reply to  Frank S.

Americans are being played by both parties! Education is continuing the ability of too many to remain immature and ignorant! Colleges are just cranking out activities steeped in victimology bull! We have a whole culture of spoiled rotten brats! Everyone thinks someone else is causing all their problems and self-reliance is a dirty word along with God these days! I remember when both Hillary and Obama said snide remarks about “being on your own” and “fending for yourself”…which is what freedom is all about! Until adults start taking over this country from the children who currently run it, we will never get out of this until we become another Venezuela and then it will be too late!!!

3 years ago
Reply to  Frank S.

Both parties have to start working on this debt, , It went up$ 8-9 trillion during Obama years. They evidently did not even try to pay down debt. What is this way of thinking for USA???????

Thomas Duggan
3 years ago

Although I believe the recent debates are a gift to Trump and the Democrat players are playing to a far out there fringe and HAVE worn out every conspiracy theory they can come up with.

What I am frustrated about is what the last Bush did and Trump is doing. We asked thru our votes for spending constraints. This does not mean trashing some good ideas, but it does mean asking and let those administrators come up with financial suggestions. Bush nor Trump are forceful enough when it comes to cuts.

If only he asked for 10% across the board cuts by each department. Everyone business man knows he has 10% he can save, some will come up with less and others with more. Some will say 10% will not make a difference but its a start. So if he does not start asking we will loose again just like both Bush’s did. Just look at his early proposals, from the white house staff to planes being purchase etc.

I am still a supporter.

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